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March 15: Hanson shares are up almost 20 per cent on speculation that a bid for all or part of the building materials group is in the offing. With a share price jump of that magnitude, Hanson will be obliged to say something if it has had an approach. There was no word by late morning. Lafarge is rumoured to be interested, although it refused to comment this morning. If it did bid successfully, this would deprive the London market of its last large building materials group and would leave the French group, which bought Blue Circle and Redland, owning a large chunk of the British building materials industry.
I am very interested in the news that Australia is thinking about relaxing its cross-media ownership rules. This is all still highly conditional and you can be sure News International will be watching this with hungry eyes. But it is also significant for Daily Mail & General Trust, which owns radio stations in Australia and might like newspapers. It is also interesting for Tony O’Reilly’s Independent News & Media, which has regional newspapers and radio, and would also like to expand.
Incidentally, there is a pretty gloomy trading update out today from DMGT, which shows recruitment advertising down (as others have found, too) and news of a £15m hit to cover restructuring costs at Northcliffe, the regional newspaper business it tried and failed to sell. Analysts are lowering their forecasts and the share price is reacting accordingly.
Today also brings further details of Amec’s plans to split itself up. Outgoing chief executive Sir Peter Mason says there has been lots of interest in its French business but this sale process seems to be grinding on quite slowly.
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